Thursday, February 25, 2010

Go Tell It On The Mountain, Brother!

NYU Business School Professor Has Mastered The Art Of Email Flaming:

[brief expletive at end, intentionally left intact]

You state that, having not taken my class, it would be impossible to know our policy of not allowing people to walk in an hour late. Most risk analysis offers that in the face of substantial uncertainty, you opt for the more conservative path or hedge your bet (e.g., do not show up an hour late until you know the professor has an explicit policy for tolerating disrespectful behavior, check with the TA before class, etc.). I hope the lottery winner that is your recently crowned Monday evening Professor is teaching Judgement and Decision Making or Critical Thinking.

In addition, your logic effectively means you cannot be held accountable for any code of conduct before taking a class. For the record, we also have no stated policy against bursting into show tunes in the middle of class, urinating on desks or taking that revolutionary hair removal system for a spin. However, xxxx, there is a baseline level of decorum (i.e., manners) that we expect of grown men and women who the admissions department have deemed tomorrow's business leaders.

xxxx, let me be more serious for a moment. I do not know you, will not know you and have no real affinity or animosity for you. You are an anonymous student who is now regretting the send button on his laptop. It's with this context I hope you register pause...REAL pause xxxx and take to heart what I am about to tell you:

xxxx, get your shit together.

Amen, Brother Galloway! I should make this required reading in my next Syllabus/FAQ.

Technorati Tags: , ,

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

REPOST: "Ahh, I see Professor Mojo has given his first exam of the term..."

[First Exam Weekend has come and gone in these parts. The last few days, I have been dealing with the inevitable ones who didn't listen to instructions, and who are in Deep Trouble over Things Which Have Incurred The Wrath of Professor Mojo. As is tradition, here is this post marking the occasion:]

"Ahh, I see Professor Mojo has given his first exam of the term: his students look like they've been gut-shot."

I try to keep class upbeat, lively, and not boring --oxymoronic aims for a history lecture, one might say (and yes, there are days when even I get bored by the things I have to cover). But I never intentionally mislead my students. From Day One, I warn them that if they don't study for the exams --and especially if they blow off the essay questions -- they will fail. But there are a significant number who simply do not listen.

And so every term, I get Exam One grades (out of 100) like 55. 38. 18. Welcome to the world of Community College Education.

For what it's worth, I also tell the students that this happens to everyone, and that I will take significant improvement into account when final grades are calculated. My mission is to improve these students, I don't get paid extra for failing them --that's how I justify it. Even so, I also know from past experience that only half of those students who bomb Exam One (bomb: = = anything less than a D/60) will even bother to finish the course, they'll head for the door at break and keep on going to the registrar to withdraw. It makes me sad.

But I can only do so much. I'm not legally allowed to use a war elephant (with howdah) to chase down those counselors who push students into classes for which they are absolutely unprepared; nor can I use Invoked Devastation on the schools which produce these students. I can only encourage and work with those who stick it out, and at least get them on the Path of Right Learning ("Study! Read! Think!").

The really sad part is that many of them will "shop around" for an "easier" prof next semester, and then end up failing again when they don't bother to study. This is college: I'm not doing any favors by reinforcing the bad habits they picked up in high school. And yes, I can throw stones at high schools, I used to teach high school, and I do know what it's like.

[SPRING 2010 UPDATE: Over 75% of the students passed the exam with a C or better --and close to 90% got at least a D. All this despite removing the auto-answer feature from the practice exams. Huzzah! Of course, the ones who failed almost all failed to do the main essay. And this isn't even counting the 5% of students who never bothered taking the exam at all --they all got dropped after a week for failure to perform.]

Technorati Tags: , ,

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Sunday in the Store with Mojo

--not sure if Sondheim would make a production out of it...

I am hiding at a local branch of a national bookstore chain, taking advantage of the free wifi to get some grading done and jam on groovy tunage (cf. my Twitter feed). It's interesting, to a point. Mrs. accuses me of being anti-social, or at least being anti-public, and she is mostly right. It is somewhat positive of a change of pace for me to mingle with strangers who aren't students. And there is the sense of accomplishment of my working publicly on my laptop: "Oh, look, there's a college professor grading exams!"

And yet it's not entirely satisfying. I am distracted by the hipsters: I want to grab them by their lapels and WAKE UP YOU TINY-BRAINED PERSON YOU ARE RIDICULOUS AND WILL GROW OLDER AND BE LIKE ME SO GET USED TO IT --but that is a behavior that Mrs. would most definitely classify as anti-social. Plus I talk perhaps a bit too loud for a second on my cell phone and I get SHUSHED! in an even louder syllabant register than my phone voice. Hereupon I did engage in a bit of anti-social behavior by stopping my phone call and directly addressing the much-younger-and-much-weaker-than-me youngster in my "I am quietly about to stomp a mudhole in you" voice, i.e., "Am I really talking too loudly?" (I was just joshing, I reduced my volume and smiled --but I got my point across.)

--And that is precisely why I ought not to do Sunday in the Store with Mojo. I get into trouble.

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Where Do I Even Start?

Well, Naturally We're Liberal - The Chronicle Review - The Chronicle of Higher Education:

[One] reason that liberal-arts professors tend to be politically liberal is that they have very likely studied large-scale historical processes and complex cultural dynamics. Conservatives, who tend to evoke the need to preserve traditional connections with the past, have nonetheless contributed least to any detailed or thoughtful study of history. Most (although, of course, by no means all) prominent historians of politics, literature, the arts, religion, and even economics have tended, as conservatives claim, to be liberally biased. Fair enough. But if you actually take the time to look at history and culture, certain conclusions about human nature, society, and economics tend to force themselves on you. History has a trajectory, driven in large part by the desires of underprivileged or oppressed groups to attain parity with the privileged or the oppressor.

I hardly know where to begin --and this wasn't even the author's first reason. Let's start with 'they have very likely studied large-scale historical processes and complex cultural dynamics." Uh, no. The lack of cross-disciplinary study on the graduate level is shocking, once you get past the surface. Historians know next to nothing about macroeconomics, political scientists poo-poo anthropology, and don't even get me started on English. (I mention English because they are widely acknowledged as the most notorious offenders that undergraduates encounter on a regular basis, pace the library science folks.) What they more likely studied were the items their committee people recommended, thus reinforcing the echo chamber dynamics of academia. (Yes, I know the same charge can be made viz the Right; I'm merely asserting that the Left has no room to call the kettle "made of metal".)

Second, as one old cranky prof once pointed out to me, the definition of "conservative" tends to be both incomplete and inaccurate. Notice how the author subtly conflates "need to preserve traditional connections" with lack of significant scholarship ("[they] have contributed least to any detailed or thoughtful study of history"). I especially admire the use of "thoughtful" to make a pejorative statement. Well done, Sparky!

And then that last sentence: " History has a trajectory, driven in large part by the desires of underprivileged or oppressed groups to attain parity with the privileged or the oppressor." I love how the author disdains the "need to preserve traditional connections with the past" and then throws out one of the most time-honored Marxist interpretations in the entire academy. Indeed, the idea of "trajectory" goes all the way back to the Greeks --so much for the lameness of "traditional" connections!

I could go further but I have lecture in five minutes. But read the whole thing. It's a howler! And it's a good part of the reason why I'm probably never going back to finish that pesky doctorate --I'm simply Not One Of Them.

Why Are Conservatives So Rare On College Campuses?

Technorati Tags: ,

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

I was saying something quite similar --twenty years ago!

Treasury rates have to go up - Fundmastery Blog - MarketWatch:

"My first reaction was to think, ‘Treasury rates have to go up.’  As we can see from this chart, Non-Defense Spending was under 10% of GDP for years and then it went up into a range of 15% of GDP.  Now, we have seen another ramp up to 19%.  Defense spending was on a long-term downtrend until 2001 when spending on defense turned up again.

We have been in a benign environment for decades with interests heading lower along with a protracted decline in defense spending.  Now, at least, interest rates are very likely to enter an up trend."


(chart source: Cato Institute)

Twenty years ago, as an undergraduate political science major (among other things), I did a senior research paper refuting the argument (I think it was by Lawrence Korb) that defense spending was inherently inflationary. I distinctly recall doing some serious number-crunching using *gasp* SPSS, doing adjustments for time-lag, and looking across several different cases --countries, in other words. What I found should not be that surprising. First, only "newly-industrialized" countries had problems with high defense-as-percentage-of-[then-GNP-but-now]-GDP being associated with high inflation (those countries, twenty years ago, included South Korea and Israel). Second, defense spending was actually somewhat deflationary when balanced against a far more pernicious influence: health spending!

Somewhere, Dr. Bernstein is smiling. He recommended my paper for an undergraduate award. I heard via the grapevine that my findings ticked off another senior member of faculty and so my nomination was 86'd. Sweet vindication...

Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,